The Creative Guide is now available for purchase in German (Release date: March 14, 2019). To purchase on Amazon, please click here.
Chapter Four: Creating a Routine for Success
When examining the lives of the world’s most gifted and creative people – including Ludwig van Beethoven and Georgia O’Keeffe, you’ll find that most, if not all, incorporated highly organized routines to optimize their daily lives and achieve their goals. Routine wasn’t just another habit they formed; it was their secret sauce for success. Author Mason Currey researched the ins and outs of history’s A-list and found one very clear and common thread. The way in which they spent their time was very similar: doing creative work (60 percent); sleeping (30 percent); and eating and doing leisure activities (10 percent). In other words, they didn’t spend half a day f*cking around on social media and posting selfies. Perhaps the best prescription is to keep things that simple and focused.
Charles Dickens said, “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.” Similarly, writer Thomas Mann laments, “Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.” Writer Haruki Murakami talks about the importance of simplicity to his daily order: “I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
Composer John Adams agrees. He says, “My experience has been that most really serious creative people I know have very, very routine and not particularly glamorous work habits. Because creativity, particularly the kind of work I do – which is writing large-scale pieces, either symphonic music or opera music – is just, it’s very labor intensive. And it’s something that you can’t do with an assistant. You have to do it all by yourself.”
One of the hardest things (second to uncertainty) is creating structure in your schedule that allows you to succeed. So far we know what it costs to be who you are, the certainty of uncertainty, and hopefully I’ve convinced you to make an effort to stay connected with your peers for moral support throughout the process. Now what?
Creating a personal routine for success is your next step in the game of getting ahead and staying there. What does this mean exactly? For example, today I am recovering from a rambunctious girls’ trip to New Orleans taken this past weekend. But guess what is on my to-do list? Writing this book! Yes, writing and working through a chapter. Creative endeavors sometimes require a routine for success, especially to help move us through the most difficult aspects of the day.
You may be thinking, wait – didn't I become a creative to avoid having to have a routine in the first place? Isn't that one of the main advantages of being footloose and freelance? To be able to do whatever you want, when you want? To evade the doldrums of a 9-to-5 schedule? To eat breakfast at noon in your pajamas and work into the wee hours if that's what you desire?
Well, yes and no. It is sometimes challenging for those coming from a traditional job and work schedule to transition into a creative career for precisely this reason – there's no schedule and no routine. Between these two extremes exists a happy medium, however.
There's no doubt that having a flexible schedule is beneficial and a huge lifestyle perk, especially for those emerging from the corporate world. However, with a routine and discipline comes an even greater freedom. The freedom to work less, get more sh*t done and maximize your free time to do the stuff you really love. This freedom flows from effective time management. Advance planning and adhering to our plans can increase our productivity by more than 40 percent.
TIPS FOR CREATING YOUR ROUTINE FOR SUCCESS:
1. Allow a maximum of two social media check-ins for 15 minutes each per day. Time and limit yourself. No midnight scrolling!
2. Plan your day in advance.
3. Stick to your script – no matter what. For the first week, force yourself to do everything on your list. This will build muscle memory and instant time-management skills.
4. Schedule your four most difficult tasks first thing in the day.
5. Pretend you work for a well-organized union that requires you to schedule personal time and regular breaks.
6. Schedule at least one brain exericise/stress reducer per day (meditation, nap, staring at the wall, quiet time or music bath).
7. Schedule activities into 90-minute blocks.
8. Add an “if there is time” list to your day.
9. Have a notepad on your desk to list internet rabbit holes you want to go down or extracurricular activities that you want to pursue during your free time.